Winchester voters to join debate
WINCHESTER — After months of back and forth between the school board and the budget committee, voters will get to weigh in at Thursday’s deliberative session.
But that’s too low to keep the school open, according to school officials. The school board recommends a budget of $11,510,850, up 3.8 percent from the current year’s $11,089,128.
While it’s the budget committee’s recommendation that usually goes before voters, the school board said last week its proposal will be up for discussion Thursday.
The deliberative session is where voters can make amendments to articles, including the budget, before March’s election.
Last month, Superintendent Kenneth R. Dassau sent a letter to Brian D. Moser, budget committee chairman, stating the school board would go to court to stop the $9.2 million budget from going through.
In a letter to Dassau last week, the district’s attorney, Matthew H. Upton of Portsmouth, wrote the budget committee never held a public hearing on its budget, making its recommendation invalid to pass along to voters.
The cuts it proposed would also raise class sizes above state regulations and would not allow the district to meet special education requirements, since the committee also cut special education teaching aides, Upton wrote.
Moser said last week he disagrees with the board’s reasoning and expects to present voters with the $9.2 million recommendation at the deliberative session.
The budget is just one article on the school district warrant.
The school board is asking voters to do away with the budget committee’s role in formulating the school district’s budget. (A similar article on the town’s warrant would do the same with regards to the town budget.)
But another article, submitted by petition, would expand the budget committee’s role, giving it the power to set the default budget that goes into effect if voters reject the budget plan in March.
There is also a one-year contract with the Winchester Support Staff Association that would cost an additional $17,500 next year.
The only other petition article asks if the district should create a committee to look at withdrawing students from Keene High School, and appropriate $5,000 “to hire an economist to study the financial impact” of reopening Thayer High School.
That school closed in 2005, and the district now pays tuition for its students to attend Keene High.
At a public hearing on the article last week, school board Chairwoman Colleen M. Duquette said Winchester would not be able to offer the programs, sports and clubs that Keene does, a sentiment echoed by a handful of speakers.
Others said tuition will only continue to increase and it would be better to bring the students home.
The deliberative session for the Winchester School District is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Winchester School.
Abby Spegman can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or email@example.com.